Top Line Summary

  • The return of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Alistair Johnston
  • The honour of working with Joe Hart
  • Focusing on themselves and not what Rangers do
  • The qualities of champions
  • Taking more risks and not playing slow

Everything that Brendan Rodgers said to the media as he previewed Celtic's trip to face Motherwell at Fir Park on Sunday...

Can we start with an injury update? Cameron Carter-Vickers has been training this week. Is he available?

Yes. He will be available. Ali Johnston as well. Odin Thiago Holm will also be available having missed the last game. Those three should come back in.

Is everyone else longer term still out at the moment?

Yes. We've only got a few players on that front but everyone else is back training with the group.

Having big players like Cameron and Alistair back does that give you a big boost heading into the weekend.

Listen, when you have that level of player missing that we've missed a lot over the course of the season then there is no doubt that him (CCV) coming back at this stage is very important for us. He obviously brings authority and assurance to the game for us. Hopefully, he can stay injury-free now until the end of the season.

Can I ask you about Joe Hart retiring? How did he approach it with you? Did he have a private conversation? Was it discussed or did he just come out and say this is my decision and this is what's happening?

No. We spoke about it a little while back. I knew what he was thinking. It was just about the timing. I understood it. I have had a few players in that position late in their careers and whether they play on or go out at the top. It doesn't seem that long ago since I saw Joe play for Shrewsbury and then I came up against him in our title race back in 2014. I watched his career closely. He's had a brilliant career. What's been nice, is to get to know him as a person. I've seen him from the outside and football's a small world. You get to hear about players and different types of characters in the changing room and clubs. He's always one that came across as being a really positive guy. To get the chance to see that every single day and work with's been a great honour to work with him. I also know he's super determined to finish his career on a high. I think that was the reason he wanted to get it out now and get it announced so he could concentrate on the rest of the season. He's a great man and hopefully, we can give him that success.

In terms of looking forward does that give the club and those upstairs clarity and time to look at options for the summer?

Yes. That gives them plenty of time. I think we are very clear in what we need to improve on within the team and the squad. With Joe going that quickens that up in terms of looking to bring in someone for next year.

How has the week been in terms of morale and atmosphere after the disappointment of the last-minute equaliser against Kilmarnock last Saturday?

We take the time to analyse the performance and result which no one wanted. We know that. That's what training is for, to come back in and analyse and we went through it as a group. We looked at things in the game that were actually good and sometimes they can get lost because of the result and conceding late on. There were some good elements to the game. We looked very closely at the qualities that are different when you are trying to win titles. We analysed them. The players have been excellent in training. We look to take that good week in training into the game at the weekend.

You know how difficult it is to win titles. You are currently behind Rangers for the first time this season. They play before you and the gap could go to five points. How crucial is that you get back to winning ways and you do not let that gap get any wider?

It's getting back to focusing on ourselves. We can't control what Rangers or any other team does. I've said all season we can only focus on our performance. We are not top of the league because of ourselves and the points that we've dropped. We have to learn from that and we have to be focused very much on our own performance and that's what the next 12 games will be. It's still in our hands what we achieve this season, so we have to focus on that.

You touched upon it there that you were talking to the players about the qualities they need to be champions. What are they? What needs to change, do you feel, to get your team back to the top of the table?

I think it's the consistency and the intensity in game situations. Taking opportunities and creating them when we have the ball. In the latter stages of games, being able to see them out and how you manage those situations whether that's through the intensity to stop a pass going forward, recovering your shape as a team or even just fundamentally defending the box in certain areas. We will look at specific moments in the game when we can be better. We have had eight wins and two draws and it feels like eight losses and two draws. There has still been a lot of good in the games. It's just the result that disappoints and the performance disappoints and that doesn't give you a good feeling. My job along with the coaches is to train the players to stay positive and keep that mentality and look to be better in our next game.

You spoke after the Kilmarnock game about how slow play created anxiety in the stands how are you going about stamping that out from your team's play? What's going to change there?

There is no instruction to play slow. Any of you guys who were here the last time I was here although I don't like to go on about that, if you could label anything at my teams and the same goes for Swansea, Liverpool and Leicester it was intensity and speed in the game. In order to do that you have to play the ball forwards quickly. In order to do that you have to see the gaps and you have to trust your ability to play through. Whenever we have done that as a team and the intensity has been good it is when we have progressed the ball quickly and got into good positions and then the magic begins from that. When it is slow and you play sideward or backwards then it gives the opposition a chance to retreat and recover. You cannot play every pass forward but the speed of the ball is so important. When you have that and you have the runs to match then that brings a different dynamic to the game. That's the encouragement. To give the players the confidence to play the forward pass and to take that risk in the pass, because that's how we work.

This is the first time in a long time your team has not been top of the league, what sort of different challenge is this for you as a coach and for the players?

There is no positive or negative feeling with it. It's where we are at come the end of the season after the 38 games. It can fluctuate and it doesn't matter where you sit now, it is where you are at the end of the season. Everything is in our hands and we need to be more consistent. I see a very determined group. It is a very honest group of players and we're getting some strength back into the squad as well which should help us, hopefully, for the final 12 games.

You spoke last week about Liel Abada and his ongoing situation and the potential for a loan move. Has there been any update?

No change.